Since Pope Francis declared in May that the cure of Dan and Michelle Schachle’s son, Mikey, was a miracle attributed to the intercession of Father Michael McGivney, the founder of the Knights of Columbus, people have been reaching out to them and asking them to share their story.
“It’s not our story, we don’t own it,” said Dan Schachle, a parishioner at St. Christopher Church in Dickson, Tennessee, in the Diocese of Nashville. “It’s God’s story. It’s Father McGivney’s story.
“We didn’t deserve any of this stuff,” he added. “We owe it to God and to Father McGivney to tell the story. We’ve just been given a big gift.”
That gift, the miraculous cure of their son, who was given no hope of surviving after doctors discovered what was considered a fatal case of fetal hydrops while still in the womb, opened the door to the beatification of Blessed Michael McGivney.
The Schachles and nine of their 13 children were on hand for the beatification Mass Oct. 31 at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford, Connecticut. Blessed McGivney was a priest for what is now the Archdiocese of Hartford, where the cause for his sainthood was opened in 1997. Typically, a second miracle attributed to his intercession is required for canonization.
After the beatification rite during the Mass, the Schachle family processed to the altar carrying a relic of Blessed McGivney. Once at the altar, Dan Schachle gave the relic, encased in a cross, to his son, Mikey, 5, who then presented it to Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, who was representing the pope at the beatification.
“It’s hard to believe this is all going on,” Dan Schachle said. “It’s surreal.”
Praying for a miracle
On Dec. 31, 2014, doctors delivered the news that Mikey had Down syndrome. “We were not upset by this,” Dan said during a Vespers service for priests the night before the beatification Mass. “Although we knew it would bring additional hardships, we knew it was a huge blessing to our family as well.”
But shortly after that, doctors had more devastating news. Mikey was diagnosed with fetal hydrops and was given no chance to survive.
Dan prayed to Father McGivney, promising to name his son after him if he would intercede to save Mikey.
The Schachles asked all their friends to pray for Blessed McGivney’s intercession to save their son. After returning from a pilgrimage to Fatima with other Knights of Columbus insurance agents and their families, where they also prayed for the intercession of Blessed McGivney, doctors discovered the fetal hydrops had disappeared.
Mikey was born on May 15, 2015, the same date that the first Knights of Columbus Council at St. Mary’s Church in New Haven, Connecticut, was founded 133 years before.
“Everybody keeps asking what it’s like to live with a miracle,” Michelle Schachle said. “It’s no different than a year ago” before Mikey’s cure was officially proclaimed by Pope Francis to be a miracle. For Michelle and the rest of the Schachle family, Mikey has always been a miracle.
“Ever since he’s been born, it’s like he’s a little relic,” Dan Schachle said.
During a press conference after the beatification Mass, someone asked Dan if there was any jealousy among his other children about all the attention focused on Mikey. But there is no envy among his siblings, his sister Mary said.
“We recognized it was a miracle,” she said. “It was just kind of the way it was.”
“We looked at how our parents loved him and we loved him that way too,” she added.
The weekend was a whirlwind of activity for the Schachles, including the priests’ vesper service on Friday; the beatification Mass on Saturday morning, a candlelight procession through New Haven with a family rosary and testimony from the Schachle Family about the miracle on Saturday, the ribbon-cutting for the Blessed Michael McGivney Pilgrimage Center, formerly known as the Knights of Columbus Museum, and a Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Mary’s Church on Sunday.
Everything was happening so fast, the import of it all was just settling on the family as they began their drive home to Dickson, Tennessee, from Connecticut, said Dan and Michelle’s son Leo.
“The people of Connecticut have all been so wonderful to us,” Dan Schachle said. And the Schachle family was able to meet some of Blessed McGivney’s living relatives.
During the weekend and before, the Schachles have received numerous calls, letters and emails from people who have heard or read the story of the miracle that saved Mikey.
“It’s unbelievable,” Michelle Schachle said of all the people who have reached out to them. “They’re asking us to join them in praying for a miracle.”
For the candlelight procession, one gentleman handed Michelle a candle and asked her to have her family light it and pray for him, which they did, she said. “It’s very humbling.”
Spreading the word
The Schachles have been asked to share their story before a variety of audiences. Dan, the general agent for the Knights of Columbus insurance program in Tennessee, Kentucky and the eastern half of Arkansas, was invited by two councils to come to their parishes .in Louisville, Kentucky, in early November to share the story.
He and his family want to spread the word about how God has blessed them, Dan said.
The family’s devotion to Blessed McGivney started long before Mikey’s miraculous cure.
Dan decided to become an insurance agent for the Knights of Columbus after reading “Parish Priest,” a biography of Blessed McGivney. As the associate pastor of St. Mary’s Church in New Haven, Father McGivney, the son of Irish immigrants, founded the Knights of Columbus in 1882 to provide financial support for widows and orphans and to keep Catholic men and their families close to their faith at a time of widespread anti-Catholic bigotry.
Since its founding, the Knights of Columbus has become the largest Catholic lay organization in the world with more than 2 million members.
By establishing the Knights of Columbus, Blessed McGivney “presented to the Church a paradigm” for an active and engaged laity, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson said at the beatification Mass.
The priest embodied the order’s core principles of charity, unity and fraternity, he said. His holiness directed him toward parish life, “not away from it,” and did not separate him from others but “drew him to their lives,” because he knew his people’s hardships firsthand, Anderson added.
Dan Schachle considers his work with the Knights of Columbus a vocation rather than merely a job. “I’ve felt that way the whole time,” he said. After reading “Parish Priest” and understanding why Blessed McGivney founded the order, “I latched on to that,” Dan said.
“Since the miracle, I’m not more serious about the mission, but I’m more keenly aware of the weight my actions carry because of Father McGivney actually doing this for our family,” he said.